Like any newbie, when I first qualified as a Pharmacist, I found it a real struggle slotting in to my new role. As I tried to get up to speed with the job, I found my biggest stumbling block came from communication.
They were manic days. I was flat out, customers were waiting, I had a pile of scripts to do, doctors on hold on the phone and a pharmacy sales representative called in unexpectedly (don’t they always?)
So, I dealt with it in the best way I could at the time. Head down, clam up and soldier on until the pile was clear again. Being a shy person, I was happy to stay hidden in the dispensary and avoid contact with people as much as possible. But, what was wrong with this? Everything! It was ridiculous given the nature of our business. My customers were getting the service, just without the human interaction they needed. Something had to be done, and quick!
I reached the milestone of 30 years young, and I set myself some goals. Looking back now, the most important goal was the acknowledgement I was rubbish at communicating, and I had to remedy that.
I joined VoxPopuli (then PRII) Toastmasters in Merrion Square. A brave move and one I will never regret. Toastmasters is a worldwide organisation which promotes public speaking and helps people not only improve their skills but also their leadership skills.
A decade later, I am still a student, and I love it. I have made a massive leap as regards my ability and my confidence. I’m still learning, but now I don’t look on communication with the same dread. I tell people, just when I think I have the hang of Toastmasters, it throws another challenge at my feet. I am still learning, but achieving more and more confidence as I overcome each challenge.
If you have difficulty with communication skills and would like a stab at improving them, I wholeheartedly recommend Toastmasters- It has been the best investment I have made in my own personal and professional development over everything else.
Another skill Toastmasters focus on is listening- and let’s face it, we all need help in this department. It’s a skill that can be difficult, especially when you are listening to something you don’t want to hear.
I have made plenty of mistakes in my lifetime, and on reflection a lot of these have been as a result of me not listening to understand. We listen, and we miss what is being said, as we are off in our own heads planning our response. This is an ongoing struggle for me, but I’m getting there! I’m learning. Listen to understand, not to respond!
I am not sure how much it costs for an evening session, but to join Toastmasters for a year it costs € 150.00.
There are clubs in all the main towns in the country and more are springing up all the time. For more information and to locate your nearest club have a look on www.toastmasters.org.
From my experience, my two top tips are:
1.Show up regularly to meetings
2.Do a role at every meeting.
Everyone else in that room is struggling with the same thing, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. Dont be afraid and just ‘get stuck in’!! I have made so many friends, and we have great fun. You can use Toastmasters to improve whatever you need in your life. Just get stuck in!!